There are few ‘undroppable’ figures in Thomas Tuchel’s current Chelsea squad.
Mainly due to the fact Tuchel rotates so liberally on such a consistent basis throughout different fixtures and a short timespan to recover in a congested schedule. The German has continually proven throughout his coaching career, and since his arrival at Chelsea, that he enjoys relying on a larger squad to shake up his options.
Though that does not mean there should not be regular names present on the teamsheet given their consistent form over the strong run that has seen the Blues win seven games in a row.
At the top of that list should be Callum Hudson-Odoi.
The 21-year-old has started the last four games against Norwich City, Southampton, Newcastle United and Malmo and has consistently impressed in all of those fixtures to prove his influence as Tuchel’s attack has started to click into gear with some dominant victories against lesser opposition.
However, this favourable run should not be used as a reason to dismiss Hudson-Odoi’s form as merely a byproduct of the ease with which Chelsea have swatted aside challenges over the past month. Playing further up the pitch in his favoured left-wing role has proved the academy graduate’s capability to set Chelsea’s most effective attacking moves into life.
He had a hand in the opening goals against Norwich, Newcastle and specifically Malmo, where his delicate flick set up an intricate exchange of passes with Kai Havertz that set Hudson-Odoi away down the right wing. Speeding past Malmo centre-back Franz Brorsson, he was able to look up and curve a perfect cross beyond the grasp of keeper Johan Dahlin into the feet of Hakim Ziyech who had the simple task of passing the ball into an empty net.
Within this recent run of games, he has registered a goal from a superb off-the-ball run and finish past Tim Krul as the Blues charged into a 3-0 lead at half-time against Norwich in the eventual 7-0 rout. At St. James’ Park last weekend with Newcastle sitting deep in a low block, Hudson-Odoi’s change in tempo and dart to the touchline allowed him to float a daring cross into the box which eventually landed at Reece James’ feet for the vital opening goal.
“He needs to play the next 250 games on the highest level and then this was the turning point,” Tuchel said ahead of the win over Norwich last month. “But is it a turning point if he does a brilliant match tomorrow? No.
“It’s only a turning point if he makes it a turning point – and only if he does not only do one good match, one good half, 60 good minutes but if he does it consistently, It’s as easy as that with every player.”
I have written before about the clear inconsistency in the way Tuchel speaks about Hudson-Odoi’s need to perform at an outstanding level on a regular basis in comparison to his persistent words of encouragement to a struggling Timo Werner. An older, more experienced and expensive player the club brought in for £45m in the summer of 2020 to score goals consistently, no less.
But internal politics aside, the proof should be undeniable now that Hudson-Odoi is one of Chelsea’s most inventive players in the final third.
Turning attention to the return of Tuchel’s £98m summer signing Romelu Lukaku, he has only featured alongside Hudson-Odoi once in an attacking trio against Southampton, but when he returns from injury after the international break, the combination of both should be utilised by Tuchel in an attempt to get the Belgian back to goalscoring ways.
The pessimism towards Hudson-Odoi among some fans will be that this run of minutes has only come about because of an attacking injury crisis with Lukaku, Werner, Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount all absent over recent weeks.
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Once everyone is back fit, Tuchel will likely revert the English youngster back to his expected bit-part role, mostly reserved for less important fixtures, or having to contend with getting the majority of his minutes in a wing-back role.
That would be a great shame and of detriment to our attacking fluidity, as Hudson-Odoi could not have done much more to prove his worth. Now we wait to see if this run is a sign of something bigger. If not, then the debate over his future at Stamford Bridge will return to the conversation surrounding him.
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